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December 23, 2005

Interesting opinion on the right of victims to allocute at sentencing

Back in February, as detailed in posts here and here, the role of crime victims at sentencing was a topic of conversation at the US Sentencing Commission's major hearing focused on Booker issues(overall coverage linked here, specific highlights here and here).  A focal point for the discussion at the federal level, as both Judge Paul Cassell and victim advocate Collene (Thompson) Campbell highlighted for the USSC, is Congress's October 2004 enactment of a comprehensive Crime Victims Rights Act (codified at 18 USC § 3771).

This afternoon I received a copy of a fascinating opinion on this topic that was handed down earlier this week by none other that Judge Paul Cassell.  In US v. Degenhardt, No. 2:03-CR-00297 (D. Utah Dec. 21, 2005) (available for download below), Judge Cassell issued a 19-page opus in response to the request by certain crime victims of a fraud to make a statement at sentencing.  Here is the introduction to the opinion:

This criminal fraud case is before the court for sentencing. The government has advised the court that several of the victims wish to make a statement — or "allocute" — at the sentencing hearing. Their request presents a question under the current rules of Criminal Procedure, which gives only victims of crimes of violence or sexual abuse a right of allocution. This narrow provision, however, has been superceded by an Act of Congress — the Crime Victims Rights Act.  The Act broadly guarantees victims of all crimes the right to allocute. Accordingly, the court will follow the congressional command and give the victims an opportunity to allocute at the sentencing.

Download cassell_allocute_order.pdf

December 23, 2005 at 08:17 PM | Permalink

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